The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) today announced it shut down Dalia's Service Agency (1670 East 17th St., Room 3D, Brooklyn, NY 11229) after finding it had continued to charge illegal fees to customers. DCA revoked owner Dalia Hen's license to operate the employment agency and barred her and her husband Nissim Hen from operating or working at an employment agency in New York City for four years. In addition, DCA secured $83,000 in consumer restitution, fines and costs during its investigation of the employment agency and will provide refunds to job seekers from as far back as 2005.
"Today marks another milestone in the City's continuous, comprehensive crackdown of the employment agency industry. To any business that still hasn't gotten the message, I'll say it again: Any employment agency that takes advantage of job seekers, especially during these tough economic times, will answer to us," said Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz. "Regardless of language or immigration status, consumers should call 311 if they experience a problem with an employment agency or to see if they are due a refund."
DCA's undercover, videotaped inspections of Dalia's Service Agency found the employment agency continued to charge applicants between $40 to hundreds of dollars in illegal upfront fees for jobs, violating both New York State Law and a previous settlement agreement the business entered into with DCA in January 2008. As part of DCA's current action, Dalia's Service Agency must run classified ads in local newspapers for 30 days to alert consumers that they may be entitled to refunds from the agency and encourage them to call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/consumers to determine if they are eligible for a refund. The shuttered business must also include this notice in its outgoing voicemail message in both English and Spanish. In addition, Dalia's must post a sign on its premises, in every language in which the agency conducted business that states that the agency has been shut down by DCA, until the end of the agency's lease.
Since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Consumer Affairs' targeted enforcement of employment agencies last year, DCA has secured more than $100,000 in restitution for consumers, conducted 330 inspections and issued 244 violations. The Department has also entered into settlements with 189 employment agencies, requiring them to comply with the law with regard to fees, to post an information poster in every language the agency conducts business, and to provide job applicants with a contract and a receipt.
The Department also recently launched an outreach effort to contact thousands of New York City residents who have used employment agencies that charged illegal fees and, therefore, may be entitled to refunds. Consumers who receive a letter from DCA about a refund should fill out the forms enclosed and return them to the Department to determine if they are eligible for a refund and find out the amount. Consumers can also call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/consumers to determine if they are eligible for a refund.
DCA will continue to conduct undercover and compliance inspections of the City's employment agencies, and will aggressively pursue maximum fines, license revocations and padlocking orders when employment agencies repeatedly break the law and deceive customers. Employment agencies that secure jobs within New York City must obtain a license from DCA. Employment agencies can charge a fee only for placing a person in a job. They cannot charge application or interview fees. In certain cases, employment agencies may collect an advance fee. However, that fee cannot exceed the maximum amount allowed by law and consumers always have the right to a refund if they choose to end their contract before the agency has found them jobs.
New York City residents who believe an employment agency has charged them illegal fees should call 311 to file a complaint. To check whether an agency is licensed, call 311 or visit the "Instant License Check" on the Department of Consumer Affairs' Web site at www.nyc.gov/consumers. DCA's free guide, "What You Need to Know About Employment Agencies," is also available online in English, Spanish, Russian, Hindi, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Bengali and Korean.
DCA enforces the Consumer Protection Law and other related business laws throughout New York City. Ensuring a fair and vibrant marketplace for consumers and businesses, DCA licenses more than 70,000 businesses in 55 different industries. Through targeted outreach, partnerships with community and trade organizations, and informational materials, DCA educates consumers and businesses alike about their rights and responsibilities. DCA's Office of Financial Empowerment is the first municipal office of its kind in the nation with a mission to educate, empower and protect New Yorkers with low incomes, to help them make the best use of their financial resources to move forward economically. For more information, call 311 or visit DCA online at www.nyc.gov/consumers.
Looking for a job placement at an employment agency? Follow these tips:
- Only use a licensed employment agency. Employment agencies operating within New York City must be licensed by Consumer Affairs. Check to see whether an employment agency is licensed by calling 311 or visiting www.nyc.gov/consumers.
- Avoid employment agencies that "guarantee" jobs. By law, employment agencies cannot guarantee they will
find you a job. In addition, employment agencies cannot refer you to a job
that pays less than minimum wage or does not pay overtime.
- Get a job description in writing. Employment agencies are required to describe, in writing, all
jobs available for agency referral. The description must include the
employer's name, address, wage rate, work hours, services you are expected to
perform, and the agency fee. If you are not provided this information, call
311 to file a complaint.
- Know your fee and refund rights. You cannot be charged a fee unless the employment agency places
you in a job. You can only be charged an advance fee or deposit if you are
seeking the following types of work: domestic worker, household worker, manual
worker, agricultural worker, skilled industrial worker or mechanic. The
advance fee or deposit must go toward the fee the employment agency charges
for placing you in a job. If the agency does charge a fee, it must refund that
fee at any time if you choose to end your contract before the agency has found
you a job. Employment agencies may also charge a placement fee after finding
you a job. However, the placement fee cannot exceed the maximum amount allowed
by law. This maximum varies depending on the type of employment and the salary
- Know your wage rights.
Agencies may refer you only to jobs that are current and available and pay at
least the minimum wage as set by New York State and federal law. Agencies must
obtain job openings directly from the businesses seeking to hire employees.
- Know your contract rights. Employment agencies must show you the entire contract before you sign it. You must be given a copy of any contract you sign. Read the contract carefully to make sure that what you are agreeing to in writing is the same as the deal you accepted verbally. Before signing the contract, get the agency to answer all of your questions, in writing. Contracts negotiated in Spanish must also be written in Spanish. Fees in the contract cannot exceed the fees that are legally permitted. You must also be given a receipt each time you make a payment or deposit. Keep all copies in a safe place.